Wednesday, October 22, 2008

GRRrrrr Internet connection... or lack of- I should say?

The long awaited INTERNET connection at my house... has quit working- out of nowhere-- no more Internet on Saturday... I don't know what the problem is... I can't make it work no matter how many times I log off the computer... and boy have there been stories/photos to share...

Oh, and a weather report: Today, it was foggy in the AM and rainy in the PM... nothing new about that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I can knit again...

I have had a really bad tendon injury in my left thumb... it was painful and I couldn't do much of anything... an the USA Hand surgeon put me in a cast for a few weeks, then in a brace for even longer... and told me NO KNITTING! Ok, I would have not knitted because it was too painful to do so-- but, doing what he told me to do and following it- also kept me from having to have hand surgery. I was even honest and asked if it was OK to knit. Of course, he said... "NO KNITTING!"

I have really missed being able to knit. A couple of weeks ago, being really tired of unpacking... every night and all weekend for 2 weeks- and having had just recently unpacked most of the yarn... decided it was time to take a break from the boxes and do some knitting.

I made this little baby set. It's for the first grand-daughter of a friend who used to teach at the same school as I did in America. She stayed there teaching when I moved overseas.

And a close up of the little booties. I loved the colors in this set-- and figured it would go with anything a little girl baby might be wearing.

This was made for an unknown child in the Alaska Head Start Program. Someone on posted about the need for warm (soft wool) mittens and hats for the children sent to school without them. No mittens or hats in ALASKA? The land of snow? How could I resist? I knitted a hat/mitten set.

I usually knit hats for the children in Afghanistan during the summer and send them over there early fall- but, my hand wasn't well enough this year... I'll still try to knit at least 2 or 3 and send them over there. I figured that there is always going to be a little girl or boy in Afghanistan who needs a warm hat, right?

AND this is my 8" x 8" knitted acrylic square sent to another poster on The squares will be put together to make a blanket for a little boy who was needed some extra love and comfort.

Now, you know why I haven't finished unpacking... I took a break for awhile and knitting is much more fun.

See, I do knit once in awhile! :D

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

IS running into a detour and not knowing how to get to work

any other way... an valid excuse to miss work?

Ring, ring... (pretending that I have my cell phone charged, with me, and have put in my work phone number)

"Hello work?" "Yes, this is: iwouldratherbeknitting.... and I was on my way to work and saw this sign in German... you do remember that I can't read German, right?"

"Well, I finally figured out that the word must have meant DETOUR." "Oh, no.. I'm a pretty quick study.. the road lane barrier was a dead give away." "Ok, the second road lane barrier was the dead give away."

"ANYWAY, this UNEXPECTED detour in the early morning darkness... on a major road- blocked off the ONLY TWO ways that I know how to get to work."

"I just wanted you to know that I don't know where I am... but, I hope that I'm not on the CEZCH border." "No, I don't think that I've gone as far as Northern Italy- I don't see the Italian Alps anywhere." "Yes, if I get as far as Italy.. I will buy a wheel of real parmesan cheese and we'll split it."

"Oh, wait.. my cell phone is dying... I hope that I'll be at work tomorrow... if I can make it home that is. And, my sub plans are........."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unpacking surprises...

When it is time for me to move to a new location- my job sends 'movers' to my house to pack everything up. You would think that 'kitchen stuff' only would be in the boxes that were packed up in the kitchen/etc. However, this is not always the case.. As I've been unpacking, I put items that belonged downstairs or upstairs near the proper staircase. I've spent many hours walking up and down stairs to put the items, that I unpack, in the correct locations.

When my household goods first arrived, and I was still teaching... I could only unpack on the week nights and the weekends. About 4 days after the movers had delivered my household goods.... I unpacked a box to find this plastic container wrapped with 'packing tape' from the movers:

I took it outside so I could get a better look...

I didn't recognize this at all and I used my scissors to cut the tape so that I could see what was on the inside:<
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It was a plant! A plant that I had set aside to give away.... Yes, it is what is commonly referred to as a Christmas Plant. Yes, plants are illegal to mail and I'm sure to also ship in household goods! I quickly looked around to see if any of the neighbors noticed that I had opened up a plastic container holding a 'plant hostage.'

I was totally amazed that the plant was still alive. My household goods were packed up on June 4- spent a few months shipped in dark sea crates on a ship and then spent a month or so in a dark storage facility (and I'm sure it wasn't air-conditioned either) here in Germany and finally delivered to my house on Sept 4... and I unpacked this 'unexpected surprise' on September 8. I just can't believe that it was still alive- much less... 'green?'

I let it sit outside in the 'sunshine' for a few days. I figured it needed to breathe some fresh air and feel some sunshine on its leaves? Then, I gave it a new place to rest its weary feet. I think it continued to lose a few more leaves- from the shock of being in extremely different conditions when it was removed from the sealed plastic container and box.

I don't think it will have enough time to recover from the unexpected 'travel ordeal' to bloom this Christmas... but, maybe next year for sure?

You just never know what you'll find when you unpack a box.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One year of blogging...

who would have thought it? Certainly not me... I wrote my first blog entry... because of an event that was so funny... that only writing it down could give it justice... When this 'event' first happened, I was just bursting to tell someone. Of all the people that I knew- I thought of my best friend from High School- and called the states to tell her what had happened. Even though we haven't seen each other in years, after I shared the story with her, we were both in tears; laughing so hard that we couldn't talk. You know that type of laugh, squeaking sounds and a gasping of breath are the only sounds that you can make.

Pam was the perfect person to tell the story too because we have had our share of many funny/silly/stupid events happen to us through the years. When something this funny happens... you need to share it with someone who can 'laugh until the tears fall'... after all, funny events deserve a full belly laugh. We all deserve a friend that you can share 'belly laughs' with and I hope you are blessed in that area.

In case you don't know the story that I'm referring to... it's the first blog entry: Mystery Spice written October 8, 2007.

It's amazing how time can change and seem to stand still at the same time. Last year, I was living in Seoul, Korea a city of 16 million people. My laptop was in the living room and my view was of the Han River. (many photos of the river and Seoul can be found on my blog) I'd often look out onto the city onto the endless skyscraper after skyscraper views and wonder about the people living inside those cement walls and wonder about their stories.

We all have stories to tell. All of us. Most of the time, we are so busy that we forget to look past the 'to do lists', running errands, and daily routines to see our own lives... the life that is happening daily minute by minute. Not much seems to happen day by day... but it is exactly the day by day... that produces your life. Life really is in the little moments; the connections with others.

I often think back to one particular person that I met in April, 2008. I had gone with some friends and acquaintances to Cambodia and Vietnam during Spring Break. I had resisted many offers to go to either place during the other three previous times that I had lived in Korea. For a total of 9 years I had opted not to visit either country. I just wasn't interested in seeing places of such pain and recent destruction. However, my job was now taking me to Germany, and finally, I decided to make the trip, since I had no plans of returning to Asia.

The last day that we were in Cambodia, others in my group decided to go to one of the museums about the KILLING FIELDS. I am very sensitive about those sort of places. I realize that horrible events have happened in history and the Killing Fields was one of worst in modern times... I just don't need to see any displays, photos, or museums about these harsh events with my own eyes. I didn't need to stir up emotions by visiting actual places or museums to see torture devices or other items on display as a haunting and constant reminder about man's inhumanity against man. I also knew that IF I did go into the museum; that I would have those images in my mind for a very long time.

One of the other ladies also decided not to go into this museum. She was a genteel southern lady... of a certain age. We two southern ladies decided that we'd seek out a place to find something cold and refreshing to drink- because after all, it is hot and humid in Cambodia. We started walking down the street for several blocks but we never found a place selling bottled water or even canned soft-drinks. After about 30 minutes of searching, becoming hotter than we were before we started out, we finally gave up and decided to return to where the 'driver's van' was located at the entrance to the museum. That way, we'd be able to easily find the others when it was time to depart for our final stop to the airport.

When we walked back to the area- we noticed that all along there had been a little open air shop selling water and soft drinks... right across the street from the museum. We stopped inside and I purchased a drink for us both. I noticed that the lady had a table with 3 plastic chairs of various styles in her tiny shop. I asked her if we could sit down... since, we were quite hot after our walk and didn't know how long the others would be in the museum. The chairs were in direct view of the van and it would be nice to rest and have a chance to cool down.

The lady running the shop asked us if we'd gone into the museum. I had told her that we hadn't. I pointed to my heart and told her that I just couldn't handle it- that I was aware that it had happened- but, I didn't need any visual reminders to haunt me. She asked where we had visited in Cambodia and where we were from in America. We had shared that we were teachers and a few of the usual pleasantries that one shares when meeting strangers. It was just your typical 'tourist or stranger chit-chat.'

After about 20 minutes, the mood changed on that quiet, still, hot afternoon and she softly began sharing her story.

She was 53 years old and had only been 16 when her life would forever be changed. Her father had been an officer in the military; he had trained in Paris, France. She told us with pride that he had spoke French fluently. She told us that one day- someone came to the door asking for him and took him away; he was never to be seen again. Soon many other neighbors became 'missing'..

She shared how all the teachers, military, doctors, those who knew the dances of the past, the artists, those with a history knowledge of the past, and professional people were rounded up first. The plan was to take away the leaders and to remove the history of the people left behind. A way to take control, to remove their identity, and of course to remove natural leaders. She was eventually sent to the rice fields--- that long term and failed attempt to grow rice of a great magnitude and where the name: THE KILLING FIELDS comes from.

She was all alone, no family, everyone that she knew was missing, she had walked miles, and months.

She said that food was scarce and that her food source consisted mostly of uncooked rice grains that she had hid in a piece of cloth. She described how she had folded a piece of fabric like a pocket and she had sewn it to her shirt on the inside. To anyone looking from the outside, because of her baggy clothing, it wasn't apparent that she had this secret pocket. She said that the soldiers would have killed her if they'd found the rice that she had hidden away. Many times she and others were searched for hidden food.

Many people were just shot and killed standing next to her- she said that those forced to work in the fields learned not to re-act or they'd be shot too. She said that you were in constant fear. One day, a soldier held a gun to her head and searched for hidden food. She told us that these horrible people could take her family away, her life- but, pointing to her heart--that they couldn't take God away from her.

They had to eat the uncooked rice, because... people working in the fields and those hiding couldn't light a fire to cook food because the smoke would give them away.

Food was in limited supply, so she ate the only food that was available to her... the hard, uncooked rice. This was her diet for years... so much that both rows of her teeth are worn to the gums in the front... 'like a cow' she told her with tears in her eyes.

My heart reached out to her... we hugged, both crying, for her loss, and the loss of all people who have had their dignity, love, shelter, sense of belonging taken from them.

I wanted to give her a simple memento for sharing her heart, story, and life with us. All my bags were packed and waiting at the hotel for our airport departure. She wasn't asking for money- and, I didn't have any money to give anyway- I only had enough $ to pay the airport departure tax. If I'd had some money with me-- I would have found a way to have hidden it in her shop-because... I know that she wouldn't have taken it from me if I'd openingly offered it to her.

The only thing that I had on me that I could give her was this:
I had made others like this and had sent them to my teacher friends... for holding those small tissue packages. One side tiny Sock Monkeys and on the inside: Dick and Jane fabric.

They are especially handy to carry in Asia since... most bathrooms don't have toilet tissue.

I took my well worn, now a little dirty and empty (I'd just used the last tissue earlier in the day) tissue holder out of my backpack and gave it to the lady in Cambodia. I told her that I had made one like it for my friends and one for myself and that I wanted her to have mine. She asked me again if I had made it and when I nodded 'yes' she held it to her heart and accepted it with fresh tears falling down her face.

She told us that she had returned to this place, the place of her birth and childhood, in the hopes that someday she'd find a relative.   She never did. 

I did not ask her name and I didn't take any photos... I didn't think about it, nor was it the appropriate time to do so. I didn't need a photo, because I knew that the moment would always stay with me no matter what.

I like to think that she carries the tissue holder to this day. I still carry the extra one that I had at home, all the time, and when I see it in my purse or backpack, I'm often reminded of her and I say a prayer for her life and health.

We learned more from her... than we would have learned if we had walked around in that museum for hours.

I wonder for how many months or years, how many people have stopped to buy something to drink in this same little shop, before or after entering the Killing Field Museum, without realizing that right there- taking their money or giving them change... was someone who had experienced the Killing Fields first hand at the tender age of 16 until just a few short years ago.

We all have a story... share yours and listen to others... people try to tell us their stories all the time and most of the time we are too busy, too pre-occupied, too busy looking for tomorrow. We carry our stories with us in our hearts and our stories are worthy of telling and hearing.

I often think about being in this city/town in Cambodia whose name I can't even remember... in a shop- much smaller than a typical American bathroom, just simply looking for something cool to drink while waiting for a ride to the airport. I found more than I ever expected that day. I could have simply purchased my drink, talked only to my friend, or walked away to wait elsewhere... instead I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet this amazing woman. To hear her story. It was the best part of my trip, totally unexpected, and I'm better for my visit with her.

I doubt if I could have been as brave as she was either- I just know that after hearing her story... I only hope that I would have it in me to be as brave.

What is your story?

Share it today or let someone tell their story to you.

You just never know what you'll find out... if you just listen with your heart.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

There's Frost on the pumpkin... errr... on the grass?

I woke this morning to a hard frost...

This is part of my yard from as seen out a window upstairs... that tree in the middle? My very own apple tree! I've never seen a triangular yard before though. The yard still has blooming flowers and trees in various areas. MY landlord lives next door (bottom left side of this photo- you can't see his house in the photo) and he planted both yards and did an amazing job. It looks like my yard will be a 4 season yard. I'll post more photos later of the yard.

This is actually the second time that there has been a heavy frost on the ground. The first time was around September 8th! Made me kind worry for the upcoming winter-since, I'd never lived anywhere where the frost came that early in the season!

I wanted to make my front doors more welcoming and found a beautiful blue glazed pot for the front steps. I also purchased a big pot of mums... full of tiny buds that have now started to open up.

My house is a light yellow color- so, I thought that this was the perfect touch.

I also bought some flowers for my kitchen windowsill. They made me happy to look at them- even though there were unpacked boxes elsewhere in the house.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Anyone still out there?

I am finally in my house... with a phone and CONNECTED to the Internet! *Notice that I did not mention anything about being completely unpacked..

Whew! It's been quite the ordeal... let's just say this... I signed up for the phone service about 3 weeks prior to moving into my apartment and it was about 6 1/2 weeks before a PHONE LINE was installed in my new house.

When the '30 something' phone guy came to my house... we had to go 'floor to floor' looking for where the phone lines might be located... (all I had were little plastic disks covering holes w/ wires in various rooms in my 3 floor house.

WELL... well... imagine my surprise when ONLY ONE PHONE LINE was discovered... on the third floor and not even in the master bedroom. Yes, I said: ONE PHONE JACK

When I said something to the German guy about it.. he said to me in his thick, heavy, accent... "You have ONE PHONE- you don't need anymore!" I think that my mouth was gaping open and that I might have had to push my mouth shut.... lol

OK, Maybe not... but, I had the wide open mouth 'expression' in my mind anyway.

Here are some photos... (yeah.. photos... did I hear cheers in the back of the room?)

The moving truck arrived w/ 11 of the sea crates. It started raining - so, the plan was formed (by me) for me to move my car out of the garage... so, that they could unpack one crate at a time to the garage and then haul the contents inside the house.

Curious as to how the unpacking is going? Enough said... (I have done a lot- but, I just stopped doing anything for the past 10 days... but, will have a go at it again tomorrow.)

And thank you so much to my faithful readers... who are still checking to see if there has been a new blog entry posted. I have missed posting to my blog.